Creating Multiple Highlighter Tools

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 16, 2021)


Rob uses different colors of highlighting for different purposes, all in the same document. He finds it very tedious to change color each time he wants to highlight something. Rob wonders if it is possible to set up multiple highlighters, each with a different color, so that it only takes a single click to pick which highlighter color he wants to use.

A good number of people suggested the approach of creating a style to handle this. The problem is, you cannot use a highlighter color as part of a style definition. All you can do is to specify in the definition either a text color or a background shading color. It is this second item (a background shading color) that is closest to a highlighter color, but they are still not quite the same in how they are treated by Word.

Assuming you really need to use highlighter colors, the only real way to do it is to create macros that apply each of the colors you want used. Each macro would be quite short. For instance, here is the macro to apply the yellow color to the selected text:

Sub HLYellow()
    Selection.Range.HighlightColorIndex = wdYellow
End Sub

Note that the color is assigned to the text using a color enumeration (constant) at the right side of the equal sign. The 15 possible colors that apply to the Highlighter tool's palette are as follows: wdYellow, wdBrightGreen, wdTurquoise, wdPink, wdBlue, wdRed, wdDarkBlue, wdTeal, wdGreen, wdViolet, wdDarkRed, wdDarkYellow. wdGray50, wdGray25, and wdBlack. In addition, if you want to remove the highlighter color, you can use the wdNoHighlight constant.

The trick is to create a short macro, just like this for each color you want to apply. (And, of course, the one that removes the highlighter color.) You can then add each of the macros to your Quick Access Toolbar or, if you prefer, associate a shortcut key with each of the macros so you can apply the highlighting using a shortcut. (How you add macros to the QAT or associate a shortcut key with them has been covered in other WordTips.)


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (2608) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Turning Off Borders for Data Series

Don't want a border to appear around a data series represented in a Microsoft Graph chart? You can easily control the ...

Discover More

Hiding Errors

If you find the green and red squiggly underlines that Word adds to your document distracting, you might want a quick way ...

Discover More

Shortcut for Show/Hide

Hate to take your hands off the keyboard? Here's a handy keyboard shortcut you can use to display (or not display) the ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Hyphenating a Selection

Word provides a hyphenation tool that can help you hyphenate words within a document. If you want to apply hyphenation to ...

Discover More

Moving Master and Subdocuments

If you need to move master documents or subdocuments from one place to another on your computer, you have to keep in mind ...

Discover More

Creating a Lorem Ipsum Tool

When editing, you may need random placeholder text inserted in your document. Word provides a couple of ways you can do ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four less than 7?

2020-01-14 16:41:11

Pat Hughes

I want the same thing but not the awful highlighting colors. I want the shade colors. I would like to add at least 2 Shading buttons to my QAT. One a light yellow for highlighting important things to do and a pinkish/red color to highlight important things not to do. Is there any way to do this?

2016-03-05 17:47:13

Peter Thomas

I actually did this before I submitted my hint for the tip. When I recorded the macro it would work over multiple selections in Word. But when I ran the macro later it would only work on the last of the selections as I found with this hint in Word 2016. Is there a way of creating the macro so that it works on all selections all the time?

2016-03-05 11:19:27


Pierre: yes, Highlights are so 1980's. That is when those colors were defined, in the days when they were the only colors available on computer displays!

There is an alternative, using paragraph shading. But is has the disadvantage of not being "findable". Highlighting is an attribute that the Find dialog can search for. Granted, it only searches for "highlight", not specific colors.

Dr. B: Yes, a slightly more complex macro could be written to offer you choice of colors, but that would require more clicks. You might as well just use the default button on the ribbon. Personally I prefer this direct approach, which is why I suggested it. Either a single click on a specific button on the QAT, or using shortcut keys to apply the specific color.

2016-03-05 10:42:21

Pierre Sundborg

A fine tip, but it again brings up the great shortcoming of highlights: Most are so dark (colors saturated) as to hide the text they highlight. Only about 5 are useful to me. Is there any way to have more light highlight colors?

2016-03-05 06:37:51

Dr. Bartolo

Better would be a more involved bit of coding (I am not up to writing it) bringing up a menu to select each colour [sic] from, with a separate macro to remove hihglghting.

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.


FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.